The Earl Haig Club, Cardiff
Thursday, 19th October 2023
ReGenesis are currently on a UK tour, nearly 30 years after they first formed, and TPA caught up with them in Cardiff. Some may wonder why TPA are covering a tribute band, as we don’t do so particularly often and try to focus on artists producing original material, especially more modern artists. However, ReGenesis aren’t just any old tribute act. They are widely regarded as one of the best Genesis tributes ever, and also feature fine artists who produce their own great original music… and as this is their swansong final tour, TPA wanted to witness these shows before they finish their ‘Last Supper’. One has to wonder, though, whether many in the audiences for ReGenesis are aware that the band’s main-men Tony Patterson and Doug Melbourne have produced excellent albums in their own right, The Divide (2019) and Dark before Dawn (2022), or that Patterson collaborated beautifully with Brendan Eyre on the melancholically atmospheric classic Northlands from 2014, quite aside from his other high quality solo albums. Let’s just hope that some people that go to see ReGenesis also consider exploring the other music produced by these talented artists.
The Earl Haig Club is a comfortable, friendly venue, full of fans anticipating a night of nostalgic forays into their youths, and some younger fans wanting to see a glimpse of the past. What I do not think they were expecting was a show which felt so full of the energy and spirit of a real live band in its heyday. Right from the start, when Tony Patterson walks on stage with a black leather jacket and subtle face markings and rips into an almost punk like Back in N.Y.C. from The Lamb…, played with a cutting edge by a top class band – there was immediately a sense that they really meant business. The stage was plunged into green and we were into the Victorian Gothic horror of The Return of the Giant Hogweed, which Patterson snarls out with venom, supported by the incredibly tight band. What is very evident is that ReGenesis are a well-rehearsed and well drilled unit – there’s none of the occasional winces or ‘making allowances’ one might feel for some tribute bands I have seen.
ReGenesis sound and feel very professional and spot on throughout the gig, clearly led by the skill and mastery of keyboardist Doug Melbourne. After that fury, things calm down considerably and ReGenesis pull out an ace card with a simply beautiful version of one of my favourite Genesis tunes, Stagnation from Trespass, Genesis’ first ‘proper’ album. The multi-talented Nick Loebner swaps his bass for a 12-string guitar and remarkably he is also joined on 12-string by drummer Nigel Appleton, who seems to be like ReGenesis’ secret weapon all night! This crystalline, diaphanous gem of a song is sensitively played with skill and touch, complete with some tinkling finger cymbals from Patterson. Melbourne comes in with that gorgeous synth solo, followed by the memorable keyboard passage… and I swear as Patterson gently plays the flute and whispers the vocals, the room was virtually floating, such was the magical atmosphere conjured by this great band. Stagnation is quite a challenge for any band to take on, but ReGenesis absolutely nailed it.
We are not going to go through each song – let’s face it, I suspect virtually everyone who reads this knows the songs inside out! There were more highlights in the first set, and on Firth of Fifth Doug Melbourne excelled with some great keyboard artistry, but it was the youngest member of the band who really steals the show during this iconic number. Stewart Colley shone all night on electric guitars, and when it came to that legendary (and virtually sacred) Steve Hackett solo, I was sat there wondering how he was going to handle it. I need not have worried – Colley took it on smoothly and confidently, and what was great was that whilst he clearly honoured the original solo, he also imbued it with some of his own touches and flourishes to give it some individuality. Hearing it done in his style blew fresh breath into such a well-known piece of music. I spoke to him after the gig and he said he was absolutely loving these ReGenesis shows, but he does not normally do ‘Prog’, spending a lot of time playing in function’ bands! All I can say is that if there are any progressive bands looking for a classy electric guitarist who can play with fire and subtlety, I would highly recommend trying to recruit Stewart Colley – just outstanding.
The first set was completed with great theatre as Patterson tells the story behind The Musical Box, and the band perform this dark piece of Grand Guignol with great aplomb. This is a special song for me personally as my brother gave me the Nursery Cryme album for my birthday when I was 13, and that was the first song I heard from it. It completely bewitched me… and fast forward 45 years, it felt like I was back in that teenage bedroom imagining those images and hearing those wonderful sounds. Patterson was brilliant in adding such vivid characterisation to the different vocal parts. Behind him Nigel Appleton sang the other parts so well, and then Melbourne and Colley interweave with a frenzy, driven along on a tidal wave of Appleton and Loebner’s powerful drums and bass. Patterson left the stage but returned with stooped gait and a chilling ‘Old Man’ mask. My young son was not expecting such theatre but was gripped by the performance, as was the whole audience. The Musical Box came to a crashing, dramatic crescendo… and we all needed a drink!
During the interval I bumped into Jon Poole, bass player with the eminent Lifesigns band, and previously with cult legends Cardiacs. He was genuinely blown away by what we had just seen – he felt the musicianship was fantastic and what he loved was the energy and atmosphere the band created. He said it almost felt like walking into a club in the early ’70s and seeing a young Genesis back in their heyday – quite a compliment from such a great musician.
The quality and energy seemed to get even better in the second half as Patterson donned his leather jacket again and swaggered around the stage in an extended section from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, an album ReGenesis have previously performed in its entirety. Whilst the excellent and gritty title track was an obvious choice, along with the epic drama of In the Cage, what was totally unexpected were the rarely performed ‘deeper cuts’ Fly on a Windshield and Broadway Melody of 1974, which they pulled off with verve. The Lamb sequence finished with a spectacularly well performed In the Cage which bristled with a sense of spiky street attitude. Melbourne was outstanding on keyboards, but the whole band excelled in sync with him. After such a breathtaking epic, everyone needed a bit of calm, and for the only song of the show ReGenesiss reached forward into the era after Peter Gabriel and performed a superb version of Entangled from Trick of Tail. Loebner and Appleton were skilfully back on 12-string guitars, and the band sang beautiful harmony vocals behind a delicate vocal performance from the talented Patterson. Not only were we were ‘Entangled’, we were also ‘Enchanted’ by this surprising jewel of a song – definitely one of the highlights of the whole evening (and just how many hearing that song that night subconsciously heard the opening bars of Squonk in their brains as soon as it ended…?).
One of my most loved Genesis songs is Cinema Show, a love shared by Doug Melbourne. The 12-string guitars are out in force as Patterson deftly sings those memorable lines, inspired by a section of T.S. Eliot’s epic poem The Wasteland. However, this glorious song is the piece de resistance for Melbourne, his fabulous keyboards delightfully up in the mix, as they have been all night. He excels in perhaps one of the greatest prog keyboard solos of all time, courtesy, of course, Tony Banks. However, like Colley’s take on the Hackett guitar parts, Melbourne does not slavishly copy every Banks nuance, clearly honouring the roots with his own inflections to pull it off with great style… and I loved every single note. Thanks Doug.
The evening just had to end with the all-time classic Suppers Ready – the Holy Grail of ’70s Prog. Not a problem for ReGenesis who flowed through the different sections with grace, skill, charm and power, whether it was the pomp and thrill of the Eternal Sanctuary Man or the music hall comedy of Willow Farm (with Patterson in a ridiculous Flower Head costume and the whole crowd shouting gleefully “A Flower?”). Loebner’s multi-faceted contributions were perfect and Appleton’s drums in Apocalypse in 9/8 suitably apocalyptic. Through it all, Patterson sang with such surety of touch and sense of real feeling about songs which he and the band clearly love. It was a majestic and moving finale to the evening. Of course, the place went bonkers and they were not allowed to simply walk away, persuaded to give us one more blast from Trespass with an energetic and forceful take on The Knife – quite a way to finish the evening.
There was much love in the room for ReGenesis. I was speaking with Tony Patterson afterwards and a punter came up to earnestly tell him it was one of the best gigs of his whole life, which Patterson humbly accepted. What was clear to me was that guy was genuinely enraptured by the music of early Genesis and the stellar performance put on by ReGenesis, and was taken back spiritually to his much younger days… and that’s a good thing.
There are many tribute acts on the road these days, covering a myriad of artists, and I have seen a few Genesis tribute bands, perhaps the most pre-eminent being French-Canadian band The Musical Box. They tour the world performing note perfect shows with authentic props and effects modelled on the original era of early Genesis. However, having seen them a couple of times, whilst I came away feeling impressed with their exactitude and precision, conversely I strangely felt relatively unmoved. For me it felt like an incredibly well scripted and staged theatrical performance by actors – it did not feel like a gig played by a band with a deep connection with the original music but also a great sense of spontaneity. Here there was a real connection between ReGenesis and the audience as they performed these wonderful songs with a real sense of commitment, imbued with the spirit of a band feeding off the energy of the audience. You cannot just recreate that with props or costumes – that comes with the feeling of the performers for the music, and their desire to make it feel like a real ‘gig’… as Jon Poole said, like walking into a club in the early ’70s and seeing a young Genesis in their heyday.
I do not see many tribute bands as I prefer original artists, but there is clearly a market for them. Some would argue that tribute bands are stifling original artists, punters preferring to see bands performing well known and much-loved tracks from their youth. There may be some truth in that argument, but it would be simplistic to suggest that tribute acts are single-handedly having such a detrimental effect upon audience numbers for original acts – the reasons are probably many and complex. Maybe, in harder times people with limited funds will probably say to themselves “I Know What I Like, and I Like what I know”, as a band once sang…
ReGenesis have entertained us royally for nearly 30 years, and wonderfully so if this gig is any representation. There’s still a few dates left of this ‘Last Supper’ tour, so I highly recommend that you “take a little trip back” and catch them one last time. After all, I somehow doubt that there will be a ‘Resurrection Tour’ after this last supper, and they are DEFINITELY worth seeing.
Let’s just hope some of those ReGenesis fans consider the other projects that the members are part of, or consider exploring other more modern progressive rock artists. After all, ‘back in the day’ even Genesis were once unknown, but thankfully some punters took a chance on them. Go on, give it a go, you never know what you might discover!
[Photos by Leo Trimming.]
Back in N.Y.C.
The Return of the Giant Hogweed
Get ‘Em Out by Friday
Firth of Fifth
– Aisle of Plenty
The Musical Box
~ Intermission ~
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Fly on a Windshield
Broadway Melody of 1974
In the Cage
Tony Patterson – Lead Vocals, Flute, Tambourine, Finger Cymbals
Doug Melbourne – Keyboards
Stewart Colley – Electric Guitar
Nick Loebner – Bass Guitar, Bass Pedals, 12 String Guitar
Nigel Appleton – Drums, 12 String Guitar, Backing Vocals